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Keeping Up with Liz Fiddle

When we see her perform, most of us view Liz Fiddle as a force. The kind of force that makes all the papers in the room start flying around in gale-force wind. There is nothing passive about her approach when wielding her fiddle with deliberate intent.

Liz thinks of herself, simply, as a multi-faceted folk fiddler with a thirst for new ways to communicate with music lovers and musicians alike. Her music explores contemporary American culture and draws from musical forms outside the Western classical tradition.

Involved on a number of levels regarding music and community, she also operates a music school out of her studio in Verona. She performs in a variety of  bands and projects, such as: Opus Black String Quartet, Remsen Social Club, Dave and Liz, Bradish and O’Rourke, Ed Vollmer, Chuck Dorgan, TumbleWeed Gumbo, Mohawk Valley Strings, Big Easy Duo, Liz and Al, and Fish Creek Rodeo. Further, you can find her at open jams, and open mics around the Central New York area. She’s out there. Everywhere.

But, today, she’s here with us.

Chuck Schiele: Hi liz. Good to see you, again. Thanks for taking time from you super-busy schedule to chat with us.

Liz Fiddle: My pleasure, Chuck! Thank you.

CS:  Ok, let’s roll … uh, one, two, tee, fo! How did you get started in music? How long have you been playing?

LF: I started playing violin at J.D. George Elementary in Verona, New York under the direction of Joan Batson. I was, and still am, in love with the violin –25 years. I used to follow bands around, and after high school spent my time following Phish quite a bit. I’d bring my violin to the parking lots of concerts and find people to play with. I worked for a local music store, so I got to meet all the musicians in the area, and realized how much I enjoyed talking and learning from them. Mom told me, although she approved of my vagabond, bohemian lifestyle, that I should go to college. So I did … for music. At OCC in Syracuse. Great experience. I studied classical music with Kit Dodd, got to play in the latin ensemble under direction of Dr. Rob Bridge. Studied Jazz improv with Joe Carello, and took some violin lessons off campus with Diamond “Joe’’ Davoli. My last teacher was the great Andrew Zaplatynski before he retired. Before going to college, I used to attend open mics in Rome, and go learn to play like Papa John Creacher as blues was the first thing I had attempted to play after years of classical training. SO thankful for people like Hans Stuy, Larry Jordan, Jeff Beam and John Keller that weren’t afraid to help a young musician out. This has been very important to me, and the reason I still and will always continue to host and support open mics. Talent needs to be encouraged.

CS: Is violin your only instrument?

LF: I play many styles of music on the violin. I do play other string instruments; viola, guitar, ukulele, mandolin, bass as well as sing.

CS: Who do you listen to for inspiration … listening specifically as it applies to your instrument, and also for just general fun.

One of Liz’s highlights has been opening up her own teaching studio: Music with Liz….check out Off_Grid_Creations on Instagram to see the restoration process for the new studio in Verona, NY!

LF: I love Alison Krauss, Michael Doucet, Vassar Clements, Joe Deninzon, Section Quartet, Vitamin String Quartet … For fun, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cake, Soundgarden, Rolling Stones.

CS: Tell us about your working projects?

LF: Opus Black String Quartet. “Opus” for the literal definition; a set of compositions by a particular composer, usually ordered by date of publication, “Black” for the carbon fiber instruments that we perform with. Cello, Viola, 2 violins. We are set up to be a traditional quartet, in a not so traditional way. Performing music from Queen, Radiohead, The Beatles, and Tool to name a few. Opusblackstringquartet.com. I run a community orchestra called Mohawk Valley Strings. I am also involved in an open mic night to benefit the vets hosted at Oneida American Legion. I perform with Bradish O’rourke –rock, country Americana. Dave and Jack –newly formed trio performing pop and rock tunes, also some jazz and holiday music. Tumbleweed Gumbo is a cajun Celtic and country band; instrumentation is guitar, bass, fiddle, accordions and percussion. Remsen Social Club is progressive bluegrass. Big Easy Duo: boot stomping originals and classic covers with a little New Orleans. -Sounds like Janis Joplin and Eddie Vedder had a love child that grew up playing fiddle in Lafayette Louisiana. Fish creek rodeo: (duo sometimes trio), outlaw country. I Have a duo with Al Krula of The Pomeranians, and also can be seen out with Chuck Dorgan in a duo. I do freelance quite a bit, sitting in with bands like Broken Rule, Masterthieves, Greg Hoover and Richie Melito, and The Pomeranians. Always down to jam, so often you will find me out in new and different collaborations with other musicians. I have wicked music A.D.D. so it would be impossible and not satisfying for me to play one style of music forever.

CS: Super cool. I admire your ambition. Please share some of the highlights of your career.

LF: There have been so many totally rad moments in my career, thus far. First and foremost, opening up my own teaching studio. Music With Liz. I have had a studio storefront in Verona, NY for 4 years until recently acquiring a property in State Bridge. This new property (former restaurant) is currently undergoing renovation to become my new studio, with a twist. More on that later. Other notable moments that stick out are getting to jam with Professor Louie at the Ridge in Chittenango last summer. Also, I took requests and played dinner music for Canned Heat, which was totally awesome (also at The Ridge). Every few years I get to teach clinics at The fiddlers Hall of Fame in Osceola. That is such a cool place, and great honor. I have been among many great talents to perform at some amazing events in Syracuse, Taste of Syracuse, Ladies Night, and Salt City Waltz, both 2016, 2018. Salt City Waltz put me on stage with Levon Helms horn section, which was fantastic, not to mention the amazing talents in and around Syracuse. Lots of collaborations with super incredible people. I did also get to perform as entertainment with Opus Black for Alec Baldwin and family during their Carol Baldwin breast cancer gala event. I got to play Hal Casey’s parts in the last Kentucky Moon reunion at the Dinosaur BBQ upstairs. I was shakin’ in my boots. His son came up to me and told me his dad would’ve been proud.

CS: What do like doing outside of music?

LF: Snowboarding. Cross-country skiing. Demolition. Re-purposing stuff. Dance. Funny movies. Organizing. Traveling.

CS: Please share a funny war story (like the time you were in the middle of Pachelbel and a spider landed and started crawling up your bow….)

Musicians deserve to be enough reason to go out. Not “Hey lets go out and drink. Is there a band?” More like “Oh hey there’s a band lets go check it out, maybe grab a drink?”

LF: Oddly enough, this story will include Pachelbel. Ed Vollmer and I were playing a wedding. Somebody told us to start playing. So we did. Pachelbel: Canon in D. There we are, this beautiful little church, and we are playing. Nothing is happening. We keep playing. Nothing. Now we are through probably our 3 or 4th time … and they start processing. If anyone has ever played Canon in D, rarely do you complete the whole thing, let alone more than one. I consider this a battle scar, having to play through Canon in D like 5 times. lol.

CS: Advice for new musicians:

LF: Always be yourself. Always. AND! Practice with a metronome.

CS: Thoughts on the CNY music scene:

LF: So much talent. I find that certain areas of CNY are more receptive to live music than others. I am hopeful that more places pop up that are music first venues. Musicians deserve to be enough reason to go out. Not “Hey lets go out and drink. Is there a band?” More like “Oh hey there’s a band lets go check it out, maybe grab a drink?”

CS: Amen! What’s new or coming soon for you Liz Fiddle (and Co.)?

LF: I am in the process of restoring an old building to be my new teaching studio. It will also be a music first venue. I am very excited to bring this kind of community center/venue to my area. The plan is to hold workshops, yoga, make art gallery space, and bring in a few more teachers to make more of an alternative school of music. The grand room, will also be available for rent for parties, and events. I am always hopeful to create my own original music, maybe 2019 will be the year I finally do that. Unfortunately that gets put on the back burner, always. Coming soon I will be creating an up to date YouTube channel.

CS: Where can we find you and keep track of your music?

LF: My website is www.musicwithliz.com. Instagram is Music With Liz. Facebook is Liz Fiddle. Be sure to check out and like Off_Grid_Creations on Instagram as well! That is the company that has been helping with all the restorative work and there are a lot of pics up on Instagram. Coming soon!

CS: Thank you, Liz.

LF: Thank you, Chuck.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.